Those line managers out there who throw an apoplectic wobbly whenever they wander around the office and see an employee surfing on Facebook or some other such site had better start cooling-it. A new independent market report released by AT&T says that the use of social networking tools and sites as a "part of everyday working life" actually increases efficiency rather than reducing it!
The research centres on a pan-European survey commissioned by AT&T and carried out by Dynamic Markets and analyses the responses of 2,500 personnel employed in various organisations in five European countries - Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK.
It makes fascinating reading not least because it seems some businesses, rather than banning staff from accessing social networking sites during office hours on pain of disciplinary proceedings and even dismissal, are embracing the use of the tools in the workplace and, as a result are seeing significant increases in corporate efficiency.
The study reveals that 74 per cent of European employees believe that real benefits accrue from using social networking sites and online communities in the workplace, 65 per cent say having unfettered access to such sites makes them more efficient and 46 per cent say the environment fosters creativity and innovative thinking.
Other findings are that 38 per cent of respondents say accessing social networking sites increases their knowledge as individuals and provides access to a huge range of potential solutions to problems.
What's more, 36 per cent say that the ability of these sites to harness and direct the collective knowledge of employees, customers and suppliers can only be good for the enterprise and 32 per cent cite social networking's ability to stimulate team building and bonding and better internal collaboration.
Now, you might think that these responses are indicative of little more than a desire by staff to legitimise their web wanderings whilst on duty, but, apparently, you'd be wrong.
The majority of European workers (65 per cent, in fact) report that their employers have accepted social networking as part and parcel of daily commercial life.
Of the five countries surveyed, German industry is most enthusiastically adopting social networking in a workplace context, with 72 per cent of firms now allowing it.
At the bottom of the league is the UK, as resistant to change as ever, although, to be fair, 59 per cent of stiff-upper-lip Brit companies are now permitting social networking access during working hours.
It's not all sweetness and light though, so the more cynical amongst you can take some heart and be reassured in your prejudices as the report also admits there are "a number of challenges" associated with messing about on Facebook and the like whilst on company time (and the company payroll).
Amongst these are the acknowledged "possibility" that social networking in the office "might" be a distraction for staff (49 per cent agree with that proposition) whilst another is that such unfettered access will result in leaks of confidential company information. (45 per cent agree with that proposition).
Furthermore, 24 per cent of employees say that whilst they like the freedom to use sites like Facebook, they do admit that employers will probably find it impossible to calculate the true rate of return on investment of internal sites - if any.
Addressing this, Martin Silman, an executive director at AT&T, says, “The change is sociological rather than technological, thus it will be difficult to justify with traditional ROI models. Social networking is changing the way corporations communicate and if the corporate vision incorporates and builds upon the move to social networking and web 2.0, then the key performance indicators will easily follow.”
He continues, “The research shows that there is a clear trend across Europe for business users to embrace the benefits of ‘web 2.0’ technology to underpin collaboration, improve productivity and embrace business efficiency. It is clear that CIO’s and their colleagues need to think about the implications this has for their own internal networking strategy and ensure that they are equipped to make the most of the opportunities created by social networking.”
The AT&T survey reveals that the Top Five social networking tools being used by business organisations across Europe are: 1) Companies’ own collaboration sites on intranets (39 per cent), 2) Internal forums within the company (20 per cent), 3)Company-produced video material shared on intranets (16 per cent,) 4) Online social networks, such as LinkedIn, and Facebook (15 per cent) and 5) External collaboration sites on the web and internal blogging sites (both at 11 per cent).
Now, get on with your work.
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